Pinchas- Making Tough Choices for Peace

Our sedra, Parshat Pinchas, opens with Hashem praising the aforementioned Kohen for his initiative:

פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן הֵשִׁיב אֶת חֲמָתִי מֵעַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקַנְאוֹ אֶת קִנְאָתִי בְּתוֹכָם וְלֹא כִלִּיתִי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקִנְאָתִי. לָכֵן אֱמֹר הִנְנִי נֹתֵן לוֹ אֶת בְּרִיתִי שָׁלוֹם.
Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon the Kohen has turned away my wrath from the Children of Israel through his jealousy for My sake among them, so that I did not destroy the Children of Israel in My jealousy. Therefore, say to him: Behold I give unto him My covenant of peace. (במדבר כה:יא-יב)

Ramban explains that Pinchas’s immediate and effective action against Kazbi and Zimri stopped Hashem’s collective anger against the Jewish People- his reward, the Kehuna, is called “בריתי שלום” (as opposed to by Aharon, where the emphasis is on “ולכבוד ולתפארת” [שמות כח:ב]), because it’s a covenant which Pinchas acquired through fulfilling his late grandfather’s legacy of “אוהב שלום ורודף שלום,” attaining peace through any means necessary.

Pinchas is so greatly rewarded because, when Jews were dying left and right, and Zimri and Kazbi were sinning right in front of the Ohel Mo’ed, only he had the wherewithal to confront the problem, make the tough decisions to tackle the problem directly- not only did his actions “השיב את חמתי מעל בני ישראל,” but Hashem even considered this to be a “בריתי שלום.” Through making the difficult decision to kill the bad guys right away, Pinchas brought a lasting peace to the Jewish People. His actions, which may have seemed far from peaceful at the time, in fact brought peace.

The lesson we can learn from this is, as US Secretary of State John Kerry has often said to the media, in order to make true peace, “tough decisions must be made.” Peace cannot be attained by waiting for our enemies to change- we must be ready to be strong against their demands, and, when necessary, effectively stop them, even if people may be hurt in the process. Even if the other nations of the world don’t recognize it, because they only see our actions and not their result, we can remember the lesson of the Ramban- the ends do justify the means, and in order to truly seek peace, we sometimes need to make difficult and difficult decisions, and we must be confident in the righteousness of our actions in order to merit our own ברית שלום.

This is slightly ironic, as Kerry’s oft-quoted message, brought here completely out of context, reflects the exact opposite of the strategy of the American head diplomat and his European counterparts at the Iranian nuclear deal negotiations which have been underway for several months and are expect to reach a resolution by next week. The P5+1 committee sat down at the table with the Islamic Republic, and they initially had high hopes for a negotiaton, which usually involves both sides making concessions in order to “meet halfway” in the middle. Instead, the Iranian government has proven that they are not a true partner for peace, again and again rejecting very generous offers and refusing to back down, despite the deal largely aiming to only help them. The result- an absurd framework agreement demanding almost nothing from them in exchange for an end to the economic sanctions which have almost suceeded at collapsing the terrorist and apartheid regime.
John Kerry calls for “tough decisions,” yet all he has done is give in to nearly every demand of the Iranians. In an effort to form a peace deal with a nation which doesn’t want one, Kerry had one nearly the opposite of what he is calling for- avoiding the difficult decision of saying “no” to Iran, which would go against popular public opinion of his liberal constituents.
The negotiators in Geneva need to learn from Ramban’s lesson on Pinchas’s ברית שלום- that making “tough decisions” means making actual difficult decisions, going against public opinion by insisting on a responsible deal. And, if by some crazy chance, the nonexistent partner for peace in the Islamic Republic of Iran refuses this, then these leaders must have the strength to say “no” to them. This may seem contrary to an effort for peace, but the Iranian government needs the sanctions to be removed in order to continue to function, so they will come back to the table eventually, much more open to a deal. And, as Kerry has said again and again, “tough decisions” must be made for the sake of peace. The only question is if he and the other leaders have the strength to make these choices.

With Hashem’s help, we’ll see everyone making the truly “tough decisions” in order to remove Iran’s nuclear program, and an end to the Iranian threat, through any and every necessary means.